LAS VEGAS – Devin Haney retained his lightweight championship with a unanimous decision over Vasiliy Lomachenko on Saturday in a fast fight in front of a sold-out crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Haney (30-0, 15 KOs), who dominated the first half of the fight with his good physical work and one of the best jabs, won by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113. However, Lomachenko closed the fight strong with his magic-style moves, which led to the decision being awarded.
Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) has accomplished a lot in his successful career: two Olympic gold medals, three division titles and recognition as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But he did not achieve his long-held dream of taking the undisputed championship and appears to be suggesting he believes he was robbed.
“I don’t want to talk about the election [the] people are seeing what happened here today,” said Lomachenko, who cried in his locker room afterward before having a towel thrown over his head.
Egas Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager, was not tactful, calling the decision “theft” and promising to file an appeal.
“We will not allow this,” Klimas said. “I assure you that we will protest. I assure you that we will appeal this decision, because someone has to put an end to this injustice.”
It was an emotional outing for Lomachenko, 35, who stayed in war-torn Ukraine last year instead of taking on George Kambosos in an unlikely lightweight bout in Australia. This opened the door for Haney, who quickly accepted the same statement and defeated Kambosos in June to capture all four 135-pound titles.
Haney, 24, defeated Kambosos in Australia in the second round in October and quickly called out the man he had wanted to fight all along: Lomachenko.
At Friday’s rich event, Haney started Lomachenko with a kick, a practice in which he will be paid from his guaranteed $4 million purse, sources told ESPN. The push injected a lot of bad blood to be promoted without hatred.
Lomachenko vowed to make Haney pay, and was able to stun Haney several times with devastating shots from different angles. But Lomachenko, a slow starter, was in a hole after Haney won four of the first six bouts on two cards. Lomachenko was able to close out strong and won the final two rounds on two cards, but what surprised him was how referee Dave Moretti scored Round 10.
Lomachenko, who earned $3 million, shot Haney with multiple combinations in the 10th, but Moretti scored the contest.
“Maybe I don’t understand boxing,” Lomachenko laughed.
But Haney closed strong, using his flashy jab and right hands to the body to sweep the final round. It proved to be the difference between a draw and victory.
“Lomachenko is a future Hall of Famer,” said Haney, who is now a freelancer after his three-fight stint with Top Rank ended. “He was my toughest opponent so far. He’s very smart, and we fought a lot with the fans. … He stands up in the race. I have to take my hat off to him.”
Haney said attacking the body is one of the keys to success.
“Teamwork won me the fight, so I knew I had to invest in this organization,” he said. “We watched a lot of tape on Loma. He wasn’t a big fan of body shots, so we stuck to the game plan, breaking him down.”
Haney added: “He has good moments during the round, but he doesn’t finish the round hard because we invested in the body.”
The fight between two of the world’s lightest fighters and two of the world’s heaviest fighters on the pound was contested at the highest level, entertaining fans and leaving them wanting more for their choice. Repetition seems natural, but it is far from ritual.
“I have lived for 135 years [pounds] for a long time,” said Haney, ESPN’s No. 10 pound-for-pound boxer. “This is my 30th fight. I’ve been here at 135 since I was 16. We’ll go back to the lab and see what happens.”
The next step for Haney is to move up to 140 pounds and fight the winner of the June 10 title fight between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez. Haney said before this fight that he would only be a lightweight in one fight, maybe, it would be against Gervonta Davis or Shakur Stevenson.
Stevenson was at ringside and said afterward that he believed the judges made the wrong decision.
“Lomachenko should be the undisputed winner. He won the fight,” said Stevenson, ESPN’s No. 9 pound-for-pound boxer. “He landed clean punches. He pushed the pace.”
But it’s Haney who stays home in Las Vegas with all the titles and goes on to bigger and better fights. Lomachenko, too, was successful in many ways. An underdog going into the fight after a successful performance by Jamaine Ortiz in October, Lomachenko reminded everyone of his greatness and proved that he is still an elite fighter.
There are many matchups for Lomachenko in the lightweight division of the star although a rematch with Haney has not happened.
The two fighters put together a fight that will be talked about for years, a rare PPV boxing match that exceeded expectations and delivered an exciting, evenly matched fight at the highest level.